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Oct 26, 2003
Given the owners of this glorious site have withdrawn my right of reply in relation to the debate about UFO's, I feel I should add the following.

Unidentified flying object (commonly abbreviated UFO) is a popular term for any seemingly aerial phenomenon that is not readily identified. Research by military and civilian groups shows that after investigation UFOs are generally identified either directly or by applying Occam's Razor. [1] Therefore some, such as the USAF, who originally coined the term in 1952, define UFOs as only those objects remaining unidentified after scrutiny by expert investigators, while other definitions call something a UFO from the time it is first reported as being unidentified.

In addition, in popular culture the term UFO is often used as a synonym for alien spacecraft, although alternatively an anomaly may be classified as a UFO independently of opinion as to its origins. Because of these different meanings that have become associated with UFO, some investigators now prefer to use the broader term Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (or UAP). [2]

Some studies have established that only a tiny percentage of reported UFOs are hoaxes. [3] The majority of reports indicate something real, perhaps appearing anomalous, but most of these represent honest misidentifications of conventional objects such as aircraft, balloons, or astronomical objects such as meteors or bright planets. This leaves a small percentage, usually between around 5-15%, of genuinely unexplained sightings which form the core of the UFO mystery.

Modern reports and the first official investigations of UFOs began during World War II with sightings of so-called foo fighters by Allied airplane crews, and in 1946 with widespread sightings of European "ghost rockets". UFO reports became even more common after the first widely publicized United States UFO sighting, by private pilot Kenneth Arnold in mid 1947 (which gave rise to the popular terms "flying saucer" and "flying disc"). Since then, millions of people believe they have seen UFOs [4] and tens of thousands of such reports have been cataloged. [5]


Unexplained aerial observations have been reported throughout history. Some were undoubtedly astronomical in nature: comets, bright meteors, one or more of the five planets which can be seen with the naked eye, planetary conjunctions, or atmospheric optical phenomena such as parhelia and lenticular clouds. An example is Halley's Comet, which was recorded first by Chinese astronomers in 240 B.C. and possibly as early as 467 B.C.

Other historical reports seem to defy prosaic explanation, but assessing such accounts is difficult. Whatever their actual cause, such sightings throughout history were often treated as supernatural portents, angels, or other religious omens. Journalist Daniela Giordano says many Medieval-era depictions of unusual aerial objects are difficult to interpret, but argues some that depict airborne saucers and domed-saucer shapes are often strikingly similar to UFO reports from later centuries.[6]Art historians, however, explain those objects as religious symbols, often represented in many other paintings of Middle-Age and Renaissance.[7]

Shen Kuo (1031–1095), a Song Chinese government scholar-official and prolific polymath inventor and scholar, wrote a vivid passage in his Dream Pool Essays (1088) about an unidentified flying object. He recorded the testimony of eyewitnesses in 11th century Anhui and Jiangsu (especially in the city of Yangzhou), who stated that a flying object with opening doors would shine a blinding light from its interior (from an object shaped like a pearl) that would cast shadows from trees for ten miles in radius, and was able to take off at tremendous speeds.

Identification of UFO's

UFO investigators are generally people who believe that UFO sightings are natural or man-made phenomena and people who believe that at least some UFO sightings are of extraterrestrial or paranormal origin. Studies show that after careful investigation, the majority of UFOs can be identified as ordinary phenomena (see Identification studies of UFOs). For example, a 1979 study by CUFOS researcher Allan Hendry found that only a small percentage of cases were hoaxes and that most sightings were actually honest misidentifications of prosaic phenomena. Hendry attributed most of these to inexperience or misperception.[18]

The most commonly identified sources of UFO reports include:

Astronomical phenomena (bright stars, planets, meteors, re-entering man-made spacecraft, artificial satellites, and the moon)
Aircraft (advertising planes and other aircraft, missile launches)
Other atmospheric objects and phenomena (balloons, birds, clouds, kites, flares)
Light phenomena (mirages, Fata Morgana, moon dogs, searchlights and other ground lights, etc.)
A study by the Battelle Memorial Institute of US Air Force reports included these categories as well as psychological phenomena. Hendry found that 88.6% of the cases he studied had a clear prosaic explanation, and he discarded a further 2.8% due to unreliable or contradictory witnesses or insufficient information. The remaining 8.6% of reports could not definitively be explained by prosaic phenomena, although he felt that a further 7.1% could probably be explained, leaving 1.5% without plausible explanation. Hendry's figure for unidentified cases is considerably lower than many other UFO studies such as Project Blue Book or the Condon Report which have found rates of unidentified cases ranging from 6 to 30%.